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Lemon Orzo with Parmesan & Peas (Quick and Easy!)


As the winter is starting to melt away we make recipes that scream spring like this quick and easy lemon orzo with Parmesan and peas.

We toast the orzo first to give it a delicious nutty flavor, and then add minced garlic for boldness. The orzo is then cooked with chicken broth and then we add peas, lemon and fresh thyme. It is a bright dish that is the perfect transition into spring!

The Beauty of Garden Produce

There’s truly nothing better than fresh garden produce. I didn’t understand this as a child and I don’t know that many people have experienced true farm to table even today. Mom and Dad would harvest the garden with all of us kids at the end of summer, but for me it was the excitement of fresh corn, homemade raspberry jam, and making boats to float in our mudroom sink made out of hollowed out cucumbers, while Mom and Dad were anxious to cut open a juicy tomato, sprinkle it with a little salt and savor every bite.

I’m not kidding. I did not get that. I still don’t eat a tomato like an apple. Do you?

I have gained such an appreciation for food that you’ve labored over. It’s a fact: fresh picked tastes better.

Unfortunately, it’s not time for fresh peas but when they are ready we will be shelling them for this quick and easy lemon orzo with parmesan and peas. We often eat this as a main dish (check our our ham version for a main dish), but it’s wonderful and light so it makes a great healthy side dish as well.

What is Orzo?

I love this question; it’s so satisfying to see people’s reactions when they learn that orzo isn’t a grain, despite the fact that it looks like one. Spoiler: orzo is actually a flat, rice-shaped pasta that’s great in soups, salads, or enjoyed as is.

 Homemade Quick and easy lemon orzo with parmesan and peas in small wooden bowl next to lemons and parmesan cheese.

How is Orzo Different from Rice?

Although orzo can be cooked like rice and has similar nutritional information, it cooks up in about half the time. This is the number one reason why I love cooking with orzo. Well, that and the fact that I like the shape. And it tastes really good, especially when you toast it first. Okay, there are a lot of reasons why I love orzo. 

Is Orzo Healthier Than Rice?

Orzo has higher protein and fiber content than rice, but orzo has slightly higher carbohydrates per serving. Because orzo is higher in protein and fiber, it will help you feel fuller for longer which can help with weight loss.

Tips on How to Cook Orzo

Like I mentioned above, you can cook orzo like pasta, boiling it in liquid, which works well if you’re serving it in soup because you can just throw it in the last 10-15 minutes and let it cook right in the soup. 

You can also cook it like rice. To cook orzo in a pan with chicken broth or water, just toast the orzo in the bottom of a pan with a little oil until it begins to turn a little nutty. Add a little garlic, salt, or whatever seasoning you wish to you use, chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and place a lid on top. Cook until the pasta has absorbed the liquid and the orzo is tender, about 10 minutes. 

If you are serving orzo in a salad, make sure to rinse the pasta before cooking. That will wash away the starch and keep the pasta from sticking together after you cook and drain it.

How Much Orzo Pasta Per Person?

We hate measuring pasta. It’s so tricky to know how much spaghetti to grab. I seriously always make way too much pasta, but orzo pasta is a different story.

You can measure out orzo and should plan on about 1/4 cup (or 2 ounces) dry pasta per person. Orzo will more than double in size when cooked so don’t worry, there will be enough.

Wooden bowl of simple lemon orzo with parmesan and peas next to a red cloth.

What’s in This Lemon Orzo? 

Now that we’ve covered the basics of cooking orzo, we can move onto the really good stuff: this lemon orzo recipe! Here is what you will need:

  • Orzo
  • Olive Oil
  • Chicken Broth
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Lemon – zest and juice
  • Peas
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper

This orzo recipe proves that you don’t need a lot of ingredients to create a dish that’s full of flavor. The bright lemon juice and zest are the key ingredients in this recipe. Get your hands on real lemons for the best flavor — the bottled stuff just doesn’t compare! 

You know, you could also throw in a little chicken (or other protein) with this quick and easy lemon orzo too. Shoot, why didn’t I think of that sooner?

The measurements for each ingredient can be found in the recipe card down below.

How to Make Lemon Orzo

The basic steps for this lemon orzo recipe are similar to the tips we shared above. To make this easy dinner, you must do the following: 

  1. Toast the orzo in a little extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Stir in the garlic and thyme, then pour in the broth. 
  3. Let the orzo simmer until the liquid has been absorbed. 
  4. Stir in the lemon zest, juice, and peas and continue cooking until the peas are bright. 
  5. Stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper. 

Note that the cooking rule for acid is to add it last, which is why the zest and lemon juice go in at the very end along with the cheese and peas. That way everything is fresh and bright and the flavor isn’t diluted by the time you’re ready to serve this lemon orzo. 

These instructions can also be found in the recipe card found at the end of this post. The recipe can also be saved or printed there.

A spoonful of delicious lemon orzo with parmesan and peas from a wooden bowl.

Is Orzo Gluten-Free? 

Many people mistakenly believe orzo is gluten-free because it looks like rice (which is gluten-free). However, because traditional orzo pasta is made with wheat flour it is NOT gluten-free. It’s becoming easier to find gluten-free alternatives though, so I’m sure you can find gluten-free orzo in store or online. Just make sure to double check the label to ensure it’s certified gluten-free! 

Tips for the Best Lemon Orzo Pasta

First and foremost, it’s so important that you add in the chicken broth a little at a time. You need to give the orzo pasta a little time between pours to soak up some of the broth (it’s a bit like risotto in that way). If you dump all the broth in at once, it’ll take much longer for the orzo to absorb all the liquid. 

Also, be sure to buy good-quality Parmesan cheese and not the powdery stuff in the shaker can. Either get a small block of Parmesan and grate it yourself, or find a bag of pre-shredded Parmesan in the cheese section. This is such a simple recipe, so the quality of your ingredients matter! 

Lastly, if you have leftovers of this lemon orzo pasta, you’ll likely need to re-season this dish before serving it. The orzo will soak up the lemon juice, so you may need to add an extra squeeze of that and potentially extra salt or pepper as well. Just give it a taste and see what you think it needs! 

Silver spoon in a wooden bowl full of Quick and easy lemon orzo with parmesan and peas on a white table.

Variations

Adding more vegetables or changing up the veggies is one way to alter this recipe to meet your family’s likes. Carrots, green beans, red bell pepper, broccoli or asparagus would all be great additions to this dish.

If you want to make this recipe vegetarian, just swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth.

Feta cheese would also be a delicious addition to this, as well as other fresh herbs like parsley, basil or oregano.

How Long Will Lemon Orzo Last? 

Because this lemon orzo contains no meat, it will last for up to a week in the fridge. When reheating this easy dinner recipe, you’ll want to do so in a skillet with a little water or chicken broth to prevent the pasta from drying out or becoming gummy. 

Sometimes a good side dish is the hardest part of the meal. Let us come to the rescue with this light and bright lemon orzo pasta with peas and parmesan! It is quick and easy and the whole family will love it!

Looking for more delicious ORZO RECIPES?

Servings: 4

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 14 minutes

Description

As the winter is starting to melt away we make recipes that scream spring like this Quick and easy lemon orzo with parmesan and peas.

Prevent your screen from going dark

  • In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and pasta.

  • Cook, stirring occasionally until toasted, about 30-60 seconds.

  • Add garlic and stir it in followed by thyme.

  • Add the broth, a small amount at a time.

  • Bring to a boil, cover the skillet with a lid and turn down to a simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the pasta has absorbed most of the water and is tender.

  • Remove the lid and add the lemon zest, juice, and peas and stir until the peas are bright and cooked.

  • Add the cheese and salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

You can keep this recipe in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Serving: 1gCalories: 481kcalCarbohydrates: 85gProtein: 18gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 959mgFiber: 7gSugar: 14g

Author: Sweet Basil

Course: 100 Family Favorite Easy Healthy Recipes

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photo collage - Delicious lemon orzo with parmesan and peas in a wooden bowl.
Simple lemon orzo with parmesan and peas with a silver spoon next to lemons, parmesan cheese and a red cloth.

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